Our Victoria-based company is dedicated to improving safety, well-being and quality of life in communities. It’s always a pleasure sharing our expertise beyond British Columbia. It’s all about collaboration and helping people get their heads out of the sand. Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit and often get complacent – communities are no different. It was a privilege travelling back to Alberta earlier this month and visiting the beautiful Town of Peace River. I then met my friend and colleague Brekke Beyer in Canmore for the 2019 Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association (ACCPA) conference.
If you’ve never been to Peace River, it’s time to take a trip. I spent 3 wonderful days teaching our new approach to Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). We refer to it as Full Spectrum. It strengthens traditional and 2nd Generation principles by adding critical pieces such as health impact, organizational leadership, placemaking, storytelling and more. I’ve been a dedicated CPTED practitioner since 1999 and learned from one of the leaders, Timothy Crowe. Tim passed away in 2009 and I still consider him an elder in the truest sense. As advanced as Tim was in his teachings and in his book I always felt there were missing pieces to CPTED. The puzzle is now complete or as whole as I can imagine it.
Peace River and many other rural communities are struggling to find more creative ways of addressing crime. Reducing fear, improving well-being and quality of life for all residents is a primary goal of CPTED. Most of us realize this has become very challenging for rural communities where crime rates continue to escalate. It makes sense in most cases, these areas are generally remote and some distance from larger urban cities. Cities offer more services that help to address crime. Larger municipalities have more police officers and emergency services. This generally allows for better response times versus that of rural communities. Smaller communities have less personnel and typically rely on the RCMP and volunteer groups such as Rural Crime Watch. They may have more support from Peace Officers or Bylaw staff. This is usually sufficient within town limits and becomes more challenging when responding to more remote areas. Unfortunately, this is often the case for many First Nations and other indigenous communities.
This is a strong argument for adopting the use of CPTED in all rural communities throughout Canada. It’s not a silver bullet solution but it helps build capacity and more social cohesion – connection to each other and place (land). Living in both urban and rural communities over the last 30 years I’ve learned that our First Nations and indigenous communities understand this. I’ve worked with the Red Deer Native Friendship Centre and helped to address various gang issues in Central Alberta, including Maskwacis. Taking part in peace circles and other traditional ceremonies has been an honour. In Canmore we introduced the 28 participants attending our 2-day workshop on Full Spectrum CPTED to sharing circles. The group enjoyed telling their stories and they were heartfelt. We also shared the story of Indigenous Placemaking during our workshop, something we use in our Full Spectrum practice.
Participants in Canmore as well as those I spoke with in Peace River learned about how we can create a Healthy Built Environment (HBE). Health professionals in British Columbia are making the links between design, planning and health. We believe this a game changer! This work supports a broader application, including 3 considerations for practice. These include social well-being, economic co-benefits and small and medium sized communities. This framework addresses neighbourhood design, housing, food systems, natural environments and transportation networks. CPTED and Placemaking are both addressed within the HBE Linkages Toolkit.
We must begin to tie health to the whole community safety piece. This is essential and there is no disputing that our neighbours across the border are already a Nation under Stress. Are we next or already part of the same crisis and has it reached epidemic levels? Those of us working in the trenches understand health impact. Jane Jacobs said “get out of theory-land and into the streets for a closer look.” As CPTED practitioners we know this is critical, it’s experiential. Could Full Spectrum CPTED offer us hope? Thanks to our trip back to Alberta there are now many people saying yes, please! It’s pretty simple. We need to build more capacity and expertise in this approach that truly supports people, place and connection.